It was almost predictable.
As consumer outrage over debit-card fees reached a crescendo, a politician emerged with the proposed remedy.
State Rep. Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from Lake Worth, filed a bill Monday that would prohibit banks from charging customers for using their debit cards — a practice Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase have announced they will begin in some markets.
"They're not hurting, but they want to maintain these obscene profits on the backs of the everyday consumer," Clemens said.
Considering the dearth of state legislation that aims to protect the little guy, I wanted to cheer him on.
I have been thinking about leaving my own bank, Bank of America, because of a $5-a-month debit card fee that Clemens' bill would target.
But I couldn't shake the suspicion that his bill wouldn't do much for consumers.
If banks aren't allowed to charge debit-card fees — the only kind of fees targeted in Clemens' bill — won't they make up for it by levying new charges on other services?
"That's a great question," Clemens responded. "I expect that they will. Banks have gotten used to a sense of entitlement. And we see that in the fact that they receive these bailout dollars from the American taxpayer, then have no qualms whatsoever about sticking it to the taxpayer when their margins aren't as huge as they want them to be."
So why bother with the bill?
Clemens thinks we should at least "send them a message that this kind of behavior should not stand."
Philosophically, I like where he's coming from.
Intellectually, I'm tired of watching lawmakers waste time on bills that won't actually help residents of Florida. ("Caylee's Law" comes to mind. How many people would that bill actually benefit, other than the lawmakers who put their names on it?)
What's more, there's the question of whether the state has the legal right to regulate banking fees, which typically are the purview of the federal government. Clemens points to a U.S. Supreme Court case, Cuomo v. Clearing House Association, as evidence that it does.
It probably won't matter anyway.
Like most Democrat-sponsored bills in Republican-controlled Tallahassee, Clemens' bill is not likely to attract across-the-aisle support. House Bill 375 (which is all of two pages) is probably dead on arrival.
That isn't stopping Clemens from cajoling his Republican counterparts into supporting it.
"The $5 fee hasn't just been instituted for Democrats," he said. "Republican constituents have to pay this fee too, and I know they can't be happy about it."
Nobody I know is happy about the fees (which, incidentally, don't apply to premium bank accounts).
The good news is we still have recourse that doesn't require new legislation: We can leave.
We can take our money and run to one of the many banks not charging debit-card fees.
Yes, it will be inconvenient. But it will make a stronger statement than any politician in Tallahassee or Washington could.
Whether we realize it or not, most of us are already "occupying" Wall Street (to borrow from the name of the recent protest movement). At least, our money is.
We shop in stores owned by companies that are traded on Wall Street. We invest in retirement funds that are run by Wall Street money managers.
If we open our eyes to our own spending practices, we can make our occupation matter.
And we won't have to tolerate unjust fees.
Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion.
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